Norfolk is the place to 'stay and play' this summer
- Credit: Ella Wilkinson
There's no better place than Norfolk this summer, is the message being sent out by the county's tourism industry as MPs seek to discourage people from holidaying abroad.
The ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from May 17 as part of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.
But the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus is calling on the Government to "maintain curbs on international leisure travel" beyond that date claiming the importation of new variants could "lead to further lockdowns, and inevitably, further loss of life".
The calls come as more and more people are expected to holiday at home this year.
A report by Visit East of England published earlier this year found the Norfolk and Suffolk coast are predicted to be top destinations with both likely to see a "huge surge in visitors".
Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East of England said: "The sector is feeling confident about the summer and autumn to come, with bookings incredibly strong, particularly on the coast.
"But we have to remember that a lot of the accommodation bookings are actually held over from last year and our attractions and cultural and hospitality venues are unable to operate anywhere near capacity. While we expect to see a surge in visitors, hopefully spending lots of money that they were unable to in lockdown, the industry isn’t out of the woods yet."
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He said "regardless" of whether people are allowed to travel abroad this summer they can be "assured of a warm welcome" in the region with businesses doing "their utmost to make safe environments for visitors and residents alike."
Greg Munford, chief executive of Richardsons Leisure, expressed similar optimism.
He said: "We are really excited about the season. As restrictions un-wind we are seeing strong demand for our boating holidays and holiday park.
"Boating holidays, which traditionally book earlier than holiday parks, are at 90pc occupancy for June, July and August."
Mr Munford said at Hemsby the company was seeing "record weekly sales for holidays" from the Spring bank holiday onwards and was forecasting "selling out for July and August".
He said: "Whether you are looking to escape on the water or by the sea we would encourage people to book early to avoid disappointment. "As the spotlight shines on domestic tourism and hospitality there is no better place to stay and play than Norfolk."
On the bank holiday weekend, people who chose to get out and about early enjoyed the best of the weather before the wind and rain arrived, with many of the area's destinations remaining relatively quiet.
A survey of our readers over the weekend revealed many were planning on domestic holidays this summer.
Some said they were planning on camping trips while others said they wanted to explore the country's coastline.
Damien Mulligan, said: "Staying in England for our holiday because our own country needs income as much as other countries, England should come first."
Patricia Owen Wooden, said: "Local for at least another year. The UK has some beautiful places that I still haven't visited. Our weather is usually pretty good so it's the UK for us and supporting our economy because they sure do need it."
While Ruth Wilby said: "If we manage to book anything, it will only be a weekend camping within a 20-mile radius of home!"
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, which contains some of Norfolk's most popular tourism destinations said he was fully expecting it to be a busy summer with lots of tourists visiting the area.
He said while people would naturally have concerns over safety he said the area received large numbers of visitors last summer and cases remained low.
Mr Baker said: "I think there's so much on our doorstep that we take for granted and we don't necessarily recognise as being a great day out. I will certainly, with my own family, want to go out and see some of the area.
"We've got some of the best beaches in the country, the Norfolk Broads, areas of incredible culture, independent theatres, cinemas, the North Norfolk Railway, there's so much to do in North Norfolk."
The approach to foreign travel must be cautious, says PM
The approach to foreign travel this summer will be sensible and cautious to avoid "an influx of disease", Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister said there will be "some opening up" on May 17, but that things must be done in a way "to make sure that we don't see the virus coming back in" to the UK.
Mr Johnson's cautious tone came as some MPs called for restrictions on foreign holidays to be maintained to protect the country from Covid-19 variants.
Mr Johnson said: "We do want to do some opening up on May 17 but I don't think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else.
"I certainly don't and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up."
Asked if people should be planning foreign holidays, he told reporters the government would be saying more as soon as it could.
MPs urge ministers to 'discourage' foreign holidays
Restrictions on foreign holidays should be maintained to protect the UK from Covid-19 variants, MPs have warned.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus urged the Government to "discourage all international leisure travel".
It claimed the importation of new variants could "lead to further lockdowns, and inevitably, further loss of life".
The cross-party group described airport arrival halls as "a breeding ground for infection".
It recommended that passengers returning from green, amber and red countries under the new risk-based traffic light system do not mix.
Passengers' documents should be checked before they enter arrival halls, where possible, so those being transported to quarantine facilities are moved "rapidly", the group added.
It also called for "adequate financial support" to be provided to travel firms, and for a reversal to the reduction in funding for international research projects assisting the fight against the virus.
The ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from May 17 as part of the next easing of coronavirus restrictions.
But the APPG wants the Government to "maintain curbs on international leisure travel" beyond that date.